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10 fall gardening tips

to get plants, flowers, and vegetables through
the big chill ahead

Fall gardening is a very different chore, depending on where you live.

In Los Angeles, where I live, fall is just a continuation of summer. In the Northeast, however, temperatures may start dropping quickly.

But regardless of your climate, fall is the time to start preparing your garden for winter.

These 10 fall gardening tips will get your plants, flowers, and vegetables through the big chill ahead.

1.  Plant Perennially

If you live where you still have a few weeks left before hard frosts hit, you can still put some flowering plants in your fall garden.

For a final splash of color, plant dianthus, hardy asters, hardy chrysanthemum, ornamental peppers, primrose, ornamental kale, pansies, and Indian summer rudbeckia.

In areas with mild, wet winters, this is a prime time to plant perennials, shrubs, and trees as well as a vegetable garden.

2.  Fall Flower and Vegetable Bed Cleanup

Clean up flower beds and the vegetable garden. Weed. Cut back yellowing or brown foliage.

3.  Water Wisely

When the ground freezes, plants can no longer get any moisture.

So if you live in a cold climate, water your lawn, plants, vegetable garden, and trees well for the next couple of months. It may be the last drink they get for a while.

4.  Prune Late-Flowering Perennials and Shrubs

Cut back late-flowering perennials and shrubs such as hydrangea, buddleia, and peonies to the ground and mulch.

Prune rambler roses now but wait until late winter or early spring to prune other varieties.

Do not prune spring-flowering shrubs - such as lilacs or forsythia - whose buds have already formed.

5.  Mulch Much?

You don't mulch to keep the ground warm all winter, but to keep the ground temperature uniform. When ground freezes and thaws,  plants are often heaved up, exposing their roots, so you want to avoid that cycle.

In cold areas, wait till the ground is partially frozen to mulch around plants. 

Otherwise, the plants are lulled into thinking that it's still summer, and they will keep growing.

This tender new growth makes the plant very vulnerable when a hard freeze hits. It's the same reason why you don't fertilize in late fall.

Mulch must be six- to eight inches deep to keep the temperature constant. 

However, do not mulch more than two inches deep over tree roots as they need air and moisture.

Do you live in a warmer clime? Mulching is still a good idea. If you mulch with organic material, such as compost, your flowerbeds will self-fertilize and be ready to plant next spring. 

Also, a layer of mulch at least four inches deep will discourage weeds and erosion in your vegetable garden.

6.  Fertilize the Lawn

Fertilize lawns with a slow-release nitrogen fertilizer. Water well. Reseed if necessary.

7.  Don't Burn Leaves

fall gardening tipsRake up fall leaves in the garden, but don't burn them.

Rake leaves and compost; or use for mulch.

To help them decompose faster, run over them a few times with the lawn mower to chop them up.

8.  Prepare Garden Tools for Winter

Drain and put away garden hoses that you won't be using this winter. Clean and sharpen gardening tools.

Wipe blades with a thin coating of oil. Varnish or seal wood handles. Check owner's manuals for directions on storing power tools such as lawn mowers and leaf blowers.

9.  Protect Trees

Use trunk collars to protect fruit trees and trees with thin bark from rodents over the winter.

10.  Store Your Bulbs

In cold climates, dig up summer-flowering bulbs and tubers and store in a dry, cool place — and plant spring-flowering bulbs such as daffodils and tulips.

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